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Maryland loses 2,500 jobs in August

Maryland shed 2,500 jobs in August, the jobless rate climbed to 7.3 percent and the state’s labor secretary said there is no end in sight for the uneven recovery and lackluster employment figures.

Since August 2010, payrolls in Maryland have added 3,600 jobs, the equivalent of just 0.1 percent of the state’s workforce, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

“That’s pathetic,” said Daraius Irani, director of the Regional Economic Studies Institute’s Applied Economics and Human Services group at Towson University.

“It’s rather anemic,” he said Friday. “Given our cyber-centric economy, we should expect it to increase more. Instead, we’ve been shedding jobs.”

State Labor Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez pointed to the 14,700 jobs that have been added since January.

“We’re not displeased with that,” he said. “But it’s not nearly enough.”

Sanchez said a national recovery is needed to bring the state’s unemployment down. He declined to make any long-term forecasts for the Maryland employment situation.

“We haven’t seen a consistent trend out of any area,” he said. “It’s up and down. It’s choppy. Some months are terrific. Some months are less than terrific.”

Sanchez plugged President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act as a way to jump-start recovery in the job market with infrastructure spending and hiring incentives for employers. Sanchez’s boss, Gov. Martin O’Malley, has been a vocal supporter of the legislation.

Irani said the coming months could be rough for Maryland’s job market.

There is an “air of uncertainty” nationwide that he said is compounded by the large pool of federal contractors in Maryland worried by looming federal budget cuts and perhaps delaying investments until the start of the next federal fiscal year in October.

“Consumers who buy goods and services may postpone those kinds of things because the economy seems much more in turmoil than it was six months ago,” Irani said.

Maryland was among 26 states where the unemployment rate increased last month. Maryland’s rate sank to 6.8 percent in April and May but has risen in the three months since. The rate was 7.1 percent in July.

Nearby states have suffered similarly.

Virginia’s unemployment rate climbed to 6.3 percent in August from 6.1 percent in July, Pennsylvania’s, from 7.8 percent to 8.2 percent and North Carolina, from 10.1 percent to 10.4 percent. Delaware held steady at 8.1 percent.

The nation as a whole added no new jobs in August, a month marked by economic uncertainty following the debt ceiling deal in Washington, the national credit rating downgrade by Standard and Poor’s and a stock market that alternated strong gains with staggering losses.

The 9,400 private sector jobs lost in Maryland were spread across different industries, but labor officials blamed much of the decline on the information sector, which was hurt by striking Verizon workers and showed a loss of 4,400 jobs.

“We expect to see them added back next month,” Sanchez said of the Verizon jobs. He declined to say how many Verizon workers were on strike but said the “vast majority” of the information job losses were attributable to that work stoppage.

The financial and retail sectors both shed 1,400 jobs. Leisure and hospitality employers cut 3,100 jobs.

There were some bright spots for Maryland in the August jobs report. Mining and construction added 1,200 jobs; manufacturing, 600; and health care, 500. There were 6,900 new government jobs in the state, including 6,600 at local governments, according to the seasonally adjusted figures. The federal government added 300 jobs.

Sanchez attributed growth in city and county governments to the start of the fall semester and a new fiscal year.

“It’s hard to say what the revision will look like next month,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if it is revised downward.”

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